There are three kinds of Donald Trump voters.
There are those, like Don Surber, who have come to the reasoned conclusion that Trump is the best man for the job, or at least the man with the best shot at beating the Democrats.
@JonahNRO You will come around. Others may not because they are childish
— Don Surber (@donsurber) April 15, 2016
I personally don’t agree with any of these propositions — that Trump would make a good candidate, or a good president — and I’m certainly not going to “come around” to any other conclusion after nearly 30 years of Trump-watching. But Surber is a good and smart man, and so are plenty of other Trump supporters. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on what kind of man Trump is — which after all is why we hold primary races.
The second kind of Trump voter consists mostly of internet tough guys, often dismissed (including by yours truly) as “Trumpkins.”
They tend to be as vicious in their attacks on anyone who demonstrates anything less than total fealty to the object of their personality cult as they are ignorant on matters of public policy and political realities. It would be more appropriate to feel pity for them rather than scorn, except that their thuggish online personas make it nearly impossible to show any genuine sympathy for their self-inflicted plight. Trumpkins seem to know a lot about retweeting the daily talking points, and very little about anything substantial — such as how a century-old caucus actually works. It simply isn’t possible to take someone’s political opinion seriously when they shriek “Voteless election!” about a caucus (not an election) which featured weeks of voting open to every registered Republican in the state.
Mixed in with the pitiably deluded Trumpkins is a small but vile selection of racists, neo-Nazis, and “alt-right” nationalists whose attachment to this Oompa Loompa-faced, on-again/off-again Republican will tarnish the GOP for a generation. And that’s the best-case scenario, which assumes that the party survives the F12 Trumpnado.
Then there’s the third kind of Trump voter: Me. But we’ll get to me — and why I’ll vote for Trump — at the end of this column.
Before we do that though I need to make one last appeal to the reason of that first group of Trump voters, one last chance for them to recognize the facts on the ground. To do that, first let’s take a look at the 2012 electoral college map. The GOP candidate — any GOP candidate — has a narrow path to 270. The easy path, or perhaps I should say the expected path, is to peel off Ohio, Florida, and Virginia for sure, and then either Colorado or Nevada. Now that’s a squeaker. Just 275 out of the needed EC votes if the Republican picks up OH, FL, VA, and CO, and only 272 if he gets NV instead. Miss just one of those states and get ready to play “Hail to the Chief” for Hillary Clinton. And two of those states might be impossible for the GOP to crack. The northern Virginia suburbs are now so firmly attached to Washington’s generous teat that it might take a miracle to overcome. The bigger prize is Florida, whose demographics now exactly match those of the national Democratic Party. The “expected” states however might not be the only places for the GOP to pick up the votes it needs. But where? Much of Trump’s appeal comes from white, blue-collar workers, so a big play for the Industrial/Upper Midwest might, under ideal circumstances, net IA, MI, MN, OH, and WI — leaving him still just short of 270. Again, the election would come down to picking off either CO or NV in a latenight throwdown in the Mountain West. ASIDE: Iowa seems likely to stay blue, but could turn out to be a ringer for the GOP. If so, IA’s 6 EC votes could potentially counter a loss in NV. Of course, we’ve been assuming the best for the GOP nominee — a performance as good or better than Bush in 2000, in a climate which might be even more hostile today. Going to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, we see a map that looks like so. Of the nine states which the GOP needs to able to put into play, every single one of them currently rates Leans D or Likely D. Making things even more difficult, NC is trending blue again this year, and even must-win states AZ, GA, IN, and MO are only Likely R. That’s a big hole for the GOP to climb out of, in which all the battleground states are on GOP turf, and new battlegrounds might be opening up in reliable red states. Frankly I don’t know if anyone can do it — but does Trump have some special talent that could change the game? TL;DR: Almost certainly not.
Now for the longer version. Hillary Clinton comes with some big advantages, and one huge downside. The downside of course is that outside her base of True Believers (Hillkins?), hardly anybody likes her. Clinton’s unfavorable rating is 52% in the latest poll, and she’s underwater even with women — who, as Clinton never tires of pointing out, make up the majority of voters. Trump’s favorability numbers, however hard this might be to believe, are even worse than Hill’s.
A sharp man like Don Surber might believe that Trump can improve on those numbers in the remaining months before the election. However:
For Trump to turn around his historically low ratings at this point would require a historically sized shift. One of the biggest general election improvements in modern history, according to Gallup’s Andrew Dugan, belonged to Bill Clinton. During the 1992 election, Clinton managed to swing a staggering 18-point change in his net favorability rating in 1992, going from a -8 in July to +10 before his election.
A similar change would still leave Trump at a remarkably bad net -13.
Trumpkins of course will insist that Donald Trump is a more gifted and natural politician than Bill Clinton. A more reasonable supporter like Surber might worry about that. He might have to worry even more about whether Trump can manage an unprecedented turnaround, given that he’s more of a known quantity today than Clinton was in ’92. Complicating things, as any honest Trump supporter ought to be willing to admit, is that Clinton had the entire mainstream media at his back. Trump has, what? Most of Fox News and the comments section at Breitbart.
And I’d rather we didn’t have to talk about the ground game, but painful as it is, we must.
Hillary Clinton has inherited Barack Obama’s game-changing, Google-fueled voter analytics and his history-shattering GOTV machine. Clinton will never be the candidate Obama was, but given the tools at her disposal she doesn’t have to be — especially given the opposition.
The nicest thing you’ll read about Trump’s ground game is that it “needs more attention.” If he’s hoping to substitute GOTV with bold statements to invigorate GOP voters, Trump might want to reconsider. In just the last 24 hours he’s come out in favor of same-sex bathrooms, and come out against replacing ethnic-cleanser Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Republican slave-rescuer Harriet Tubman.
Breaking: Treasury throws founder of the Democratic Party off $20 bill, replaces with gun-toting Republican pic.twitter.com/G9dVXpTaXv
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) April 20, 2016
Let’s remember that from Trump’s yuge New York primary win (although he lost Manhattan, where he lives) until the GOP convention in Cleveland, this is as good as it gets for any Republican contender. You know the drill: After a brief honeymoon period in the weeks leading up to the nomination, the MSM will fire all batteries at the GOP nominee.
I know, I know: “But he fights!”
Trump’s fighting spirit is all well and good, and one of the attributes his honest critics ought to respect about him. But while that fighting spirit has played well with a plurality of Republican primary voters, it has also scared off vital national constituencies. There is not a single demographic group — not one — with whom Trump scores significantly better than did Mitt Romney or John McCain. In almost all of them, he scores significantly worse. “The numbers,” as Slartibartfast said, “are awful.”
Bad as his numbers are, the man himself is arguably worse. As my friend Jeff Goldstein wrote last week:
Donald Trump backed John Kerry for President. He told us Hillary Clinton would make a wonderful SoS. He believes his bravery barebacking coeds is analogous to spending time in the Hanoi Hilton. His policy positions, if you can ever pin them down, are incoherent, shallow, and often times completely at odds with one another. He’s a conspiracy theorist whose progressive attitudes are running interference for a leftist movement to nationalize state party behavior and create the conditions for a rejection of the electoral college and state autonomy.
He’s anti-federalist, and to him, the most heinous person on earth is the man who — having written the 31-state amicus in Heller; having crossed to the House to help defeat the Gang of 8 amnesty bill; having beaten President Bush’s DOJ in Medellin to protect US sovereignty; having stood up and called out Mitch McConnell for his lies and GOP establishment kabuki theater; having stood for his state (and for those of us whose state reps wouldn’t) in opposition to ObamaCare; and having won two cases preserving 1A religious liberty before SCOTUS — is running against him, a man whom he’s branded a liar, an adulterer, an establishment puppet, a Trojan Horse for a New World Order, a fake Christian, and a mean person nobody likes or can work with.
Donald Trump is everything I’ve spent years condemning.
While I agree with every word of Jeff’s, I’m going to have to part ways and vote for Donald Trump if he is indeed the Republican nominee.
I’ll vote for Trump even though it seems nearly impossible for him to win.
I’ll vote for Trump even though he and the “alt right” promise to ruin the Republican brand.
I’ll vote for Trump even though it’s likely that his anti-coattails will hand the Senate back to the Democrats, and maybe even the House.
I’ll vote for Trump even though his temperament is unsuited to the job of commander-in-chief and his policies are incoherent.
I’ll vote for Trump even though I’m certain that his candidacy will likely be a disaster for the Republican Party, and that his presidency, however unlikely, would be an even greater disaster for liberty and for constitutional government.
But I will vote for Donald Trump, because if and when the disaster comes, I don’t want the Trumpkins coming here on the night of November 8, as full of hate and ignorance as ever, and screaming “He lost because of people like YOU!”
If Donald Trump loses, it will be because of Donald Trump.